If you’ve ever gone to the Toronto International Film Festival and never seen a Short Cuts Programme, you are missing out. I can see why they’re not as popular as a Gala performance — most people seem to go to TIFF for the big movies and to spot celebrities. And it’s not like short films are that assessable unless they run before a Disney/Pixar movie. I’m sure the majority of Oscar viewers at home, with their voting sheet, are just guessing when it comes to the nominated live-action, animated, and documentary shorts categories.
I’ve gone to TIFF some years seeing one or two Short Cuts Programmes and sometimes skipping them all. And I always feel I’ve missed out when I skipped.
Short films range in their medium, length, and subject matter. They’re not all the same. The “restrictions” they are assumed to have in comparison to feature-length films are their strengths. They can shake-up a genre and focus on characters in a way a 90+ minute movie might not be able to. A 5-minute short film can surprise you if you let it.
Short Cuts Programme 2 is summarized as “characters […]struggle to find ways to accept their true selves and embrace the unknown.” Some films in the program share a subject like death to venture into existential themes of belonging and self-worth. Some use personal and group identity as a way to connect and accesses meaningful growth. All of them are powerful.
This Short Cuts Programme also has the distinction of entirely consisting of women directors! When asked about the importance and impact of having a platform where women filmmakers can showcase their work, Short Cuts programmer Robyn Citizen said, “This year’s Canadian Short Cuts selection includes a variety of works from women, people of colour, and Indigenous filmmakers, whose stories are, sadly, frequently under-represented,” added Citizen. “It is an honour to bring these perspectives to our audiences.”
Short Cuts Programme 2 has its last screening on Thursday, September 12th.
This Ink Runs Deep by Asia Youngman
It feels like we’re in a documentary Renascence. Filmmakers are no longer just observing their subjects, but creating a narrative with them; A new movement of intimate documentaries. This Ink Runs Deep uses tight closeups on the tattoo artists and their work to immerse and connect the viewer in the story of revival and reclamation of cultural identity.
Spotlighting several Indigenous tattoo artists and their personal experiences in the reawakening of traditional tattoos and tattooing, This Ink Runs Deep also serves as a deep reminder of the lasting effects of the Indian Act of 1876, which enforced cultural assimilation, and Canada’s sordid history (and unacceptable continued rapport, honestly) with the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.
Something to Remember (Något att minnas) by Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Something to Remember is hard to describe without spoiling the absolute charming nature of the film—but I’ll try.
The stop-motion critters, rodents, and vermin in little outfits. The extremely detailed sets. The ominous lullaby that connects every creature in a grim web that is all too relatable.
You’ll laugh by the end and wonder why, and it’s great.
Daddio by Casey Wilson
I’m sure many people are familiar with Casey Wilson, either from her career on SNL, show-stealing performance on the (sadly short-lived) sitcom Happy Endings, or possibly her obsession with all things Housewives. She has staked her place in the contemporary comedy scene. And if you know Wilson and her style of comedy, Daddio will be like a warm, awkward embrace of a family member you’ve been trying to avoid.
Base on Wilson’s own experience after the loss of her mother, Daddio’s observation on the vastly divergent responses people have to death leads to some incurably sweet — but still BONKERS! — moments between Abby (Wilson) and her father Paul (Michael McKean). And it’s impossible not to fall in love with Paul’s buoyant personality, even when he screws up, because you know he always means his best.
A Fool God by Hiwot Admasu Getaneh
Childlike innocence and curiosity is a blessing and a curse; for a girl, imposed with the confounding consequences of her well-intentioned actions, this has never rung so true.
A Fool God is at its best during the irreverent moments between the Girl and her grandmother, especially the indirect one. The magic of storytelling and tradition are woven into the story as though they are a character unto themselves in this film. Hiwot Admasu Getaneh perfectly captures the cheeky nature of youth.
Life Support by Renuka Jeyapalan
Life Support is one in a series of six short films inspired by The Globe and Mail’s “First Person” (formerly “Facts and Arguments”) articles. The 30-year-running column has a bit of a cult following, and to see the adventures and experiences of people just like you adapted into a film anthology adds a new level of prominence to the Canadian institution. As a lifelong Torontonian, seeing a story like this, from the perspective of an everyday person, up on the screen, warms my heart.
Flesh (Carne) by Camila Kater
There are some universal facets of life women can all relate to — more often, and unfortunately, the strife and restriction imposed on us. And some aspects are not all universal, and only some women face due to their race, sexuality, or age. In Camila Kater’s animated short Flesh, which is divided into 5 stories from 5 different women, these universal truths and unique situations set the tone for each piece with the overarching subject of women being viewed no more than a piece of meat tying them together.
The different methods of animation used for each monologue draw from the stories themselves. And each piece was animated by a woman at the commencement of her animation career! AND THAT’S AWESOME!
The Depths (Les Profondeurs) by Ariane Louis-Seize
The Depths is Ariane Louis-Seize’s third short film to premiere at TIFF, and it’s no wonder why the Festival always brings her back. Louis-Seize is a master at creating a tone with little-to-no dialogue, and in her latest short the mood is serene. Haunting and beautiful all at the same time, the story of finding solace in the deepest of places (pun not intended but still included) rings true and sincerely.